Court Orders Amuwo Odofin Fitness Club To Pay N1m Damages To Unlawfully Expelled Member

A Lagos High Court sitting in Tafa Balewa Square (TBS), annex of Igbosere, has awarded the sum of N1 million as general damages to Mr Michael Ifekandu, an Assistant Financial Secretary of the Amuwo Odofin General Fitness Club, who was unlawfully expelled from the club.

Justice E.O. Ashade held that the N1 million is awarded as general damages jointly and severally against the respondents for the purported unlawful expulsion of the applicant from the Amuwo Odofin General Fitness Club.

The judge also awarded 21 per cent post-judgment interest per annum on the judgment from the date of judgment till the date of the final liquidation of the judgment sum. Amuwo Odofin General Fitness Club is a social club registered with the CAC and its office is located at 112 Road, E Close, House 11 Festac Town Lagos.

The applicant had formally requested for an investigation of some members of the executive council to which the applicant belongs over the allegation of misappropriation of funds of the club.

The applicant, through his lawyer, Maduka Onwukeme, had on December 18, 2020, filed an amended originating summons to seek four questions on determination against the respondents, the Incorporated Trustees of Amuwo Odofin General Fitness Club, Kingsley Anaege (President), Chuka Uzodike (Secretary), Okechukwu Jones (Assistant Team Manager), Chukwudi Iloeje (Welfare Officer), Ben Chibueze (Chief Team Manager), Uzochukwu Ike (Provost).

Others are Macgoshen Onwunzo (PRO), John Enekweizu (Treasurer), (The members of the executive committee of Amuwo-Odofin General Fitness Club), Frank Nwaka (Secretary Disciplinary Committee), Oke Orah (Chairman Disciplinary Committee), B. O. C. Egwuonwu (Member Disciplinary Committee), Samuel Okafor (Member Disciplinary Committee) and Umeh Joachim (Member Disciplinary Committee).

The first respondent through its counsel Emeka Nwabueze, in its reply to the amended originating summons, filed a 39 paragraph counter affidavit dated December 24, 2020.

Also in opposition to the amended originating summons, the 2nd to 15th respondents/applicants, through their counsel Godwin Eluu, filed a notice of preliminary objection dated January 19, 2021, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit on the principal grounds that the 2nd to 15th respondents/applicants are agents of a known and disclosed principal, i.e incorporated Trustees of Amuwo Odofin General Fitness Club and as such cannot be sued as parties to the suit and urged the court to strike out the names of the 2nd to 15th respondents/applicants.

They also filed affidavit in support of the notice of preliminary objection and written addresses.

The applicant had formally requested for an investigation of some members of the executive council to which the applicant belongs over the allegation of misappropriation of funds of the club.

While delivering judgment, the judge resolved all the issues, in favour, of the applicant and set aside the expulsion.

The judge also directed the respondents to appoint an independent auditor to audit the accounts and financial records of the Amuwo Odofin Fitness Club in accordance with article 11 of the Constitution of Amuwo Odofin General Fitness club date October 29, 2014.

He said: “The purported expulsion of the Applicant from the Amuwo Odofin General Fitness Club is hereby set aside on the grounds that the 10- 15th respondents as members of the Disciplinary Committee of the Amuwo Ofofin General Fitness Club who were the appointees of 2nd- 9th respondents had no jurisdiction and competence to sit, hear or try the applicant as they did in this case on the allegation of financial impropriety leveled against the 2nd, 3rd, 8th, and 9th respondents to make any recommendation thereon.”

“The Disciplinary Committee made up of the 10th-15th respondents was in fragrant breach of the Applicants rights to fair hearing in the following ways,

“The Disciplinary Committee constituted themselves into the accusers, prosecutors and judges of the applicant at the same time. The applicant was not informed by the Disciplinary Committee or anybody of the allegation against him, the content of the allegations, who his accusers were, the evidence and witnesses against him,” the judge held.

Justice Ashade restrained the respondents, from suspending, expelling or restricting the membership rights of the applicant on the grounds of his allegation of financial misconduct against the members of the executive council of the club or for any other reason than in accordance with the extant laws of the club.

“The whole proceedings leading to the purported expulsion were seriously afflicted by not just the vice of the likelihood of boas but actual bias,” the Judge held.

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